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Photos of Children Working - History

Photos of Children Working - History

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History of Sweatshops: 1880-1940

Emanating from crowded tenements, lofts, and row houses, the whir of sewing machines added to the din of urban life. In many cities, recent immigrants converted small apartments into contract shops that doubled as living quarters.

Fierce competition among contractors for work and immigrants’ desperate need for employment kept wages down and hours up. As miserable as this work was, however, it provided many new arrivals a transition into American society and a more prosperous future for themselves and their families. Some immigrants began working in small shops, eventually owning large clothing firms. Others succumbed to disease, malnutrition, and exhaustion, and never found the path from tenement sweatshop to a better life.

An unscrupulous contractor regards no basement as too dark, no stable loft too foul, no rear shanty too provisional, no tenement room too small for his workroom as these conditions imply low rental.” — Jane Addams, social reformer, 1910

Sweatshop Workers

The waves of immigrants who poured into American cities desperately needed work. Like the seamstresses they began to replace, these recent immigrants were often vulnerable to exploitation themselves.

Each garment center had its own character, greatly influenced by the groups that toiled within it. In New York, the Irish dominated from 1850 into the 1880s. After 1865, Swedes and Germans entered the industry, followed in the 1890s by Italians and Russian and Polish Jews. In Chicago, Germans, German Jews, Bohemians, and a few Americans and Poles established that city’s garment center. They were joined in the 1890s by Scandinavians, Eastern European Jews, Italians, and Lithuanians.

Italian boy holding a bundle of cloth, New York City, around 1910

Photographer: Lewis Hine. Courtesy Eastman House

Children often carried goods to and from shops and performed simple operations such as removing basting threads.

Tailors, seamstresses, and apprentices in a sewing workshop, Tarnow, Galicia (in present-day Poland), 1905

Although many garment workers came to the United States with some tailoring experience, most entered the industry unskilled or with only the sewing skills they had learned at home.

Eastern Europeans introduced the task system. Men and women worked as teams of sewing-machine operators, basters, and finishers, often augmented by pressers and helpers. Payment was for completion of a certain number of garments per day. Price cutting often led to the number of garments increasing over time and workdays extending far into the night. It was not uncommon for a team to work 15 to 18 hours a day for six days but be paid for four days’ work.

African Americans entered the industry after World War I, as many migrated from Southern farms to Northern cities. By 1930, approximately 32,000 African Americans were employed in the clothing industries, which had an overall work force of more than 400,000 . As in other fields, they were restricted to the poorer-paying occupations, though a number found work as pressers, one of the better-paid garment crafts.

Pants factory, New York City, 1937

Courtesy Robert F. Wagner Archives, New York University

They say a day has 24 hours. That’s a bluff. A day has 12 coats. . . . I have still two coats to make of the 12 that I got yesterday. So it’s still Monday, with me. My Tuesday won’t begin before about two o’clock this afternoon.” — From A Sweatshop Romance by Abraham Cahan, 1898

A Nation of Immigrants

Early in the 19th century, England, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia supplied the majority of immigrants to the United States. By the 1880s, immigrants increasingly came from central and southern Europe. By 1907, immigrants from Italy, Russia, and Austria-Hungary accounted for 75 percent of new arrivals.

From 1880 to 1924, more than 26 million people came to the United States seeking greater freedom and economic opportunity. Most arrived with little money and took whatever jobs they could find. By 1910, the majority of residents in America’s largest cities were foreign-born or children of immigrants. These massive waves of immigrants supplied much of the labor for the nation’s industrial growth.

Immigrants on Atlantic liner, around 1906

Photographer: Edwin Levick. Courtesy Library of Congress

Registry Room in the main building of Ellis Island, 1905

Courtesy Ellis Island Museum

Well, I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: first, the streets weren’t paved with gold second, they weren’t paved at all and third, I was expected to pave them.” — Old Italian story

Contractor: Entrepreneur or Exploiter?

In 1900, a contractor could set up a shop for as little as $50. All it took was a couple of sewing machines, a few tables and chairs, a place to work, and brazen self-confidence. To compete against factories with modern equipment, contractors paid meager wages and located shops where rents were low. With profit margins often razor thin, most shops lasted only a few years.

Mostly recent immigrants themselves, contractors became organizers and employers of their fellow immigrants. Social pressure helped control how they treated their employees, linked as they were by language, religion, and kinship. Some contractors abused their position, squeezing as much profit from their workers as possible. Many others were themselves victims of a viciously competitive market but still shared what they could.

Between Pharaohs, from Der Groyer Kundes, April 18, 1913

The Contracting System

In the garment industry, manufacturers provided contractors with bundles of cut cloth and paid them to assemble the pieces into clothing. From the 1890s to the late 1930s, about half of all manufactured clothing.was produced by contractors’ shops and home workers.

Contracting gave clothing manufacturers tremendous flexibility to quickly increase or reduce their output as the market required. It also let them constantly search out the cheapest means of production. With manufacturers and contractors all competing against their counterparts, wages stayed depressed and working conditions remained poor.

Sweatshop in Ludlow Street tenement, New York City, around 1889

Photographer: Jacob Riis. Courtesy Library of Congress.

The committee here from the Clothing Manufacturers’ Association are not in a position to give evidence concerning the so-called ‘sweating system.’ We are manufacturers. We give our work out by contract. If any pernicious system exists, we do not know anything about it.” — Louis Hornthal, president, Clothing Manufacturers’ Association, testimony in front of U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Manufacturers, 1892

Industrial Singer sewing machine, 1910

Industrial Singer sewing machine, 1910

Rapid urban growth and few housing codes caused severe overcrowding in many American cities. New York City’s Lower East Side, for example, became one of the most densely populated districts in the world.

Three-room apartments consisting of a living room, kitchen, and bedroom often doubled as tenement shops. A turn-of-the-century shop might house an average of six people and employ anywhere from four to thirty workers. There was no privacy as every room served as living, working, and sleeping space. The kitchen table was used as a workbench, and people often slept in shifts. Outdoor privies and, later, indoor toilets located in hallways were shared by several families and workers.

Tenement Sweatshop, New York City, ca 1900

Courtesy Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University

Floor plan of a New York City tenement

CBS News finds children mining cobalt for batteries in the Congo

A CBS News investigation has found child labor being used in the dangerous mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mineral cobalt is used in virtually all batteries in common devices, including cellphones, laptops and even electric vehicles.

A report by Amnesty International first revealed that cobalt mined by children was ending up in products from several companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Tesla and Samsung.

CBS News traveled to the DRC to follow the complex supply chain. As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, it's been two years since that damning Amnesty report was published, but the DRC is a country embattled in conflict, and it is difficult and sometimes dangerous to report from there.

On a recent trip to the southern part of the country, CBS News found what looked like the Wild West. There were children digging in trenches and laboring in lakes -- hunting for treasure in a playground from hell.

The work is hard enough for an adult man, but it is unthinkable for a child. Yet tens of thousands of Congolese kids are involved in every stage of mining for cobalt. The latest research by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates 40,000 children are working in DRC mines.

More than half of the world's supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, and 20 percent of that is mined by hand, according to Darton Commodities Ltd., a London-based research company that specializes in cobalt.

Children are seen washing cobalt in a lake at a mine in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. CBS News

Patta and her team traveled along collapsing dirt roads and saw children everywhere, digging for cobalt among abandoned open pit mines. It was clear that security officials in charge there -- only some of them in uniforms -- have something to hide.

Trending News

There's such sensitivity around cobalt mining in the DRC that every few hundred feet the CBS News team was stopped, with security personnel requesting letters and documentation, even though we had official permission to be there.

But for the Chinese middlemen who buy the cobalt, there were no such constraints they have free access.

In the mines, women and children help with the so-called artisanal mining, but don't be fooled -- it is no quaint cottage industry. At barely 10 years old, children lug heavy sacks of cobalt to be washed in rivers. From as early as four, they can pick it out of a pile.

Even those too young to work -- dust-covered infants clinging to their mothers and playing on the dirty ground -- spend much of the day breathing in toxic fumes.

Officials deny there's child labor, but it was plain to see. Whenever a camera or security person or policeman appears, the children are chased away quickly.

Ziki Swaze, 11, speaks to CBS News correspondent Debora Patta outside a cobalt mine in southern Democratic Republic of Congo. CBS News

Ziki Swaze, 11, agreed to meet Patta outside the mine to discuss the work.

"My parents are dead," he explained when asked why he wasn't at school. He lives with his grandmother, and provides their primary income from the cobalt mines.

We asked a wide range of companies whether child-mined cobalt is being used in their products. All of the firms acknowledged problems with the supply chain, but said they require their suppliers to follow responsible sourcing guidelines.

Apple said it leads the industry in supply chain standards, and last year cut ties with the largest artisanal cobalt supplier. Microsoft told us it does not tolerate child labor and that it is working with NGOs to eliminate it. Samsung said it's mapping its supply chain, and Tesla explained it performs audits, and has very little cobalt in its batteries.

More company responses:

But our investigation shows just how complicated it is to trace child-mined cobalt in the global supply chain. We followed the mineral as it left the mines -- piled high on every mode of transport available, including bicycles. Sacks were already mixed up -- without labels -- making it impossible to know who had mined the mineral inside.

The children's cobalt is brought to a large market where it is bought by a Chinese company for extremely low prices. CBS News wanted to see whether there was any attempt to check at the market whether the cobalt had been mined by children, so Patta's team went back later, with a hidden camera.

When we offered to sell a truck load of cobalt, nobody asked us who mined the mineral, only what the quality was. One man told us that the Chinese traders at the market bought all the cobalt and sold it mainly to one Chinese company, Congo Dongfang Mining, known locally as CDM.

CDM is owned by global Chinese giant Huayou, which said they stopped buying from that market last year and have put in place a detailed program to eliminate child labor from their supply chain.

But in this murky process of sourcing cobalt, one thing is clear children are still here, carrying the weight of our high-tech world on their shoulders.

CBS News spoke with eight major electronic and vehicle companies who have been connected to this supply chain, and though many have joined initiatives to solve this problem, at the mines Patta visited our team saw little evidence of anyone on the ground helping these children.

We spoke to Pact, an NGO that is working with Apple, Microsoft and Huayou. The charity described the support from these multinational companies as a "drop in the ocean," as countless companies are buying the child mined cobalt.

Tuesday on "CBS This Morning" we will show you more of the story of Ziki, the young boy we found at the mines, and some of the efforts being taken to rescue the children.

Child Labor in America 100 Years Ago

At the start of the 20 th century, labor in America was in short supply, and laws concerning the employment of children were rarely enforced or nonexistent. While Americans at the time supported the role of children working on family farms, there was little awareness of the other forms of labor being undertaken by young hands. In 1908, photographer Lewis Hine was employed by the newly-founded National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) to document child laborers and their workplaces nationwide. His well-made portraits of young miners, mill workers, cotton pickers, cigar rollers, newsboys, pin boys, oyster shuckers, and factory workers put faces on the issue, and were used by reformers to raise awareness and drive legislation that would protect young workers or prohibit their employment. After several stalled attempts in congress, the NCLC-backed Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938 with child labor provisions that remain the law of the land today, barring the employment of anyone under the age of 16.

7-year-old year old Ferris, a small newsboy, or “newsie”, who did not know enough to make change. Photographed in Mobile, Alabama, in October of 1914. The newspapers he holds are copies of The Mobile Item, with the headline “Germans Are Driven Out Of Ostend,” describing the end of the Siege of Antwerp in World War I. #

A spinner in the Globe Cotton Mill in Augusta, Georgia, in January of 1909. The overseer admitted she was regularly employed. #

A few of the Western Union messengers in Hartford, Connecticut, They are on duty, alternate nights, until 10 P.M. #

Textile mill workers in Newberry, South Carolina, in December of 1908. #

Willie, one of the young spinners in the Quidwick Co. Mill in Anthony, Rhode Island. He was taking his noon rest in a doffer-box on this day in April of 1909. #

Callie Campbell, 11 years old, picks 75 to 125 pounds of cotton a day, and totes 50 pounds of it when sack gets full. "No, I don't like it very much." Photographed in Potawotamie County, Oklahoma. on October 16, 1916. #

Shorpy Higginbotham, a "greaser" on the tipple at Bessie Mine, of the Sloss-Sheffield Steel and Iron Co in Alabama. He said he was 14 years old, but it is doubtful. He carries two heavy pails of grease, and is often in danger of being run over by the coal cars. Photographed in December of 1910. The historic photo website Shorpy.com has more background information on Shorpy here. #

Minnie Carpenter, (left) photographed in November of 1908 at Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina. Minnie makes fifty cents for a 10-hour day as a spinner in the mill. The younger girl works irregularly. #

A pipe-smoking messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company. He said he was fifteen years old. Photographed in Waco, Texas in September of 1913. #

Pin-boys work in the Arcade Bowling Alley in Trenton, New Jersey, on December 20, 1909. The boys worked until midnight and later. #

A young driver in the Brown Mine in Brown, West Virginia, in September of 1908.  He had been driving pack animals for one year, working from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. The device attached to his cap is an oil-wick cap lamp, which would be lit when the boy was working in the mine tunnels. #

Young doffers in Mollahan Mills in Newberry, South Carolina, on December 3, 1908. A doffer is someone who removes, or "doffs", bobbins or spindles that hold spun cotton or wool from a spinning frame, then replaces them with empty ones.   #

"Fire! Fire! I want to make the fire!" An Italian boy on Salem Street on Saturday morning, offering to make fires for Jewish People on their Sabbath, in Boston, Massachusetts, in October of 1909. #

Two young workers, a raveler and a looper, in Loudon Hosiery Mills in Loudon, Tennessee, in December of 1910. #

Some of Newark, New Jersey's newsies, in December of 1909. #

A typical Birmingham, Alabama, bicycle messenger, in October of 1914. #

An injured young mill worker. Giles Edmund Newsom, photographed on October 23, 1912. Giles was injured while working in Sanders Spinning Mill in Bessemer City, North Carolina, on August 21st, 1912. A piece of machinery fell on his foot, mashing his toe. This caused him to fall onto a spinning machine and his hand went into unprotected gearing, crushing and tearing out two fingers. He told the investigating attorney that he was 11 years old when it happened. He and his younger brother worked in the mill several months before the accident. Their father, R.L. Newsom, tried to compromise with the company when he found the boy would receive the money and not the parents. Their mother tried to blame the boys for getting jobs on their own, but she let them work several months. Their aunt said "Now he's jes got to where he could be of some help to his ma, an' then this happens and he can't never work no more like he oughter." #

Bibb Mill No. 1 in Macon, Georgia, on January 19, 1909.  Some young workers were so small they had to climb up on the spinning frame to mend the broken threads and put back the empty bobbins. #

15-year-old Vance, a trapper boy, sits by a large door in West Virginia coal mine in September of 1908. Vance has trapped for several years, receiving 75 cents a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door. Most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. Due to the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until his photo plate was developed. #

Louis Birch, age 12, a newsboy, stands at the corner of 4th and Pine St in Wilmington, Delaware, in May of 1910. Louis had just started selling, earning 10 cents in a day. His father had passed away. Louis, of his own accord, took up newspaper selling in order to help support his widowed mother. Louis stays out until 12:30 every night and accompanies his brother, Stanley, who is a messenger, on all calls because Stanley is afraid to be out on the street alone at night. #

Ethel Shumate has been rolling cigarettes in a Danville Virginia factory for six months. She said she was thirteen years old, but it is doubtful. Photographed in June of 1911. #

Noon Hour in an Indianapolis furniture factory, on a day in August of 1908. #

The photographer found the Arnao family, children and all, working on Hichens farm in Cannon, Delaware, on May 28, 1910. Their children are 3, 6, and 9 years old. #

Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co., in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, in January of 1911. #

A barefoot Indianapolis newsie in August of 1908. #

A 10-year-old spinner at the Rhodes Mfg. Co. takes a momentary glimpse of the outside world. She said she had been working there for more than a year. Photographed in Lincolnton, North Carolina, in November of 1908. #

Two of the boys on night shift in the More-Jones Glass Co., in Bridgeton, New Jersey, in November of 1909. #

A young newsie asleep on a set of stairs with his papers, in Jersey City, New Jersey, in November of 1912. #

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The searing photos that helped end child labor in America

He arrived at the coal mines, textile mills and industrial factories dressed in a three-piece suit. He wooed those in charge, asking to be let in. He was just a humble Bible salesman, he claimed, who wanted to spread the good word to the laborers inside.

What Lewis Hine actually wanted was to take photos of those laborers — and show the world what it looked like when children were put to work.

In the early 1900s, Hine traveled across the United States to photograph preteen boys descending into dangerous mines, shoeless 7-year-olds selling newspapers on the street and 4-year-olds toiling on tobacco farms. Though the country had unions to protect laborers at that time — and Labor Day, a federal holiday to honor them — child labor was widespread and widely accepted. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around the turn of the century, at least 18 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 15 were employed.

The Photos That Helped End Child Labor in the United States

In the early 1900s, Lewis Hine left his job as a schoolteacher to work as a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, investigating and documenting child labor in the United States. As a sociologist, Hine was an early believer in the power of photography to document work conditions and help bring about change. He traveled the country, going to fields, factories, and mines&mdashsometimes working undercover&mdashto take pictures of kids as young as four years old being put to work.

Partly as a result of Hine’s work (as well as that of Mary Harris Jones, who Mother Jones is named after), Congress passed the Keating-Owens Child Labor Act in 1916. It established child labor standards, including a a minimum age (14 years old for factories, and 16 years old for mines) and an eight-hour workday. It also barred kids under the age of 16 from working overnight. However, the Keating-Owens Act was later ruled unconstitutional, and lasting reform to federal child labor laws didn’t come until the New Deal.

Photos of Children Working - History

The photos that helped abolish child labor in the U.S.

A trapper boy, one mile inside Turkey Knob Mine in Macdonald, West Virginia.

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

In the late 19th century, industry in the United States was booming, and labor was in high demand.

By 1910, an estimated 2 million children under the age of 15 were working industrial jobs, for lower wages than adults. Employers often took advantage of their small size and made them squeeze into tight spaces or handle small tools.

Faced with back-breaking labor and long, exhausting shifts, fatigued child workers suffered high accident rates. Those who were injured or maimed in the course of their duties often received no compensation.

In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was formed by progressives determined to end the exploitation of child labor. Within a decade, the federal government had absorbed the committee and reestablished it as the Children’s Bureau within the Department of Labor.

The NCLC hired photographers to investigate and document the working conditions of child laborers in factories, mines, mills and other industrial settings. Among them was Lewis Hine, a New York City schoolteacher and sociologist.

Over the course of a decade, Hine crisscrossed the country, investigating children engaged in every kind of labor, including mining.

He was rarely welcomed by employers, and usually had to interview the children under a pretext and take his photos with some degree of subterfuge.

Hine’s photos and the work of the NCLC led to the passage of the Keatings-Owen Child Labor Act in 1916, which established minimum ages and maximum shift lengths for young workers. The Act was later ruled unconstitutional, but it laid the foundation for permanent child labor laws to be established during the New Deal.

Heart-Breaking Pictures of Child Labour In USA by Lewis Hine

As hard as things might seem right now for high school or university students entering the job market, it&rsquos probably nothing compared to what these young kids had to go through in early 1900s America. These historical photos, archived by the Library of Congress, shows what conditions were like for Child Laborers before child labor was largely eliminated in 1938.

The vintage photos, taken by photographer Lewis Hine on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee, illustrates the dangers and hardships working children were subject to, especially in dangerous work where the modern safety equipment we&rsquore used to was not yet available. The kids from these old photos, some as young as 4, worked in factories, mines, plantations, and textile mills. Children in coal mines inhaled damaging dust daily, while those working in canneries or textile mills could lose fingers. Many skipped school or didn&rsquot do their homework so that they could work.


Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Human teachers can only help the great work that is being done, as servants help the master. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be a victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society. - Maria Montessori, Education for a New World

Just who was this woman who began an educational revolution that changed the way we think about children more than anyone before or since?

Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a "blank slate" waiting to be written upon. Her main contributions to the work of those of us raising and educating children are in these areas:

Preparing the most natural and life supporting environment for the child

Observing the child living freely in this environment

Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his greatest potential -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually

Maria Montessori was always a little ahead of her time. At age thirteen, against the wishes of her father but with the support of her mother, she began to attend a boys' technical school. After seven years of engineering she began premed and, in 1896 became a physician. In her work at the University of Rome psychiatric clinic Dr. Montessori developed an interest in the treatment of special needs children and, for several years, she worked, wrote, and spoke on their behalf.

In 1907 she was given the opportunity to study "normal" children, taking charge of fifty poor children of the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenzo slum on the outskirts of Rome. The news of the unprecedented success of her work in this Casa dei Bambini "House of Children" soon spread around the world, people coming from far and wide to see the children for themselves. Dr. Montessori was as astonished as anyone at the realized potential of these children:

Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants - doing nothing but living and walking about - came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.


Invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and others, Dr. Montessori spoke at Carnegie Hall in 1915. She was invited to set up a classroom at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where spectators watched twenty-one children, all new to this Montessori method, behind a glass wall for four months. The only two gold medals awarded for education went to this class, and the education of young children was altered forever.


During World War II Dr. Montessori was forced into exile from Italy because of her antifascist views and lived and worked in India. It was here that she developed her work Education for Peace, and developed many of the ideas taught in her training courses today. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


In Rome Dr. Montessori developed the Montessori program for the elementary years for the child from 6-12. She began, as elementary classes do today, with the required curriculum of Italy of her time. She adapted the traditional teacher-taught subjects in the arts and science so that the children could use materials to guide their open-ended research and to follow their individual interests, working to a much higher level than was previously (and is presently!) thought possible for children of this age. The elementary child, when allowed to work independently instead of being taught in groups led by a teacher, and in classes with a mixed age group of 6-12- year-old students inspiring and teaching each other, masters academic subjects usually not taught until middle or high school.


Montessori had many ideas for the child at this age. For information on this age level see: Montessori 12-18


In the 1940's, inspired by the amazing potential of children realized in the early years, Dr. Montessori stated that age three was too late to begin to support the work and development of children. In 1947 the Montessori Assistants to Infancy program was begun in Rome. This was a 3-year, full-time program which is still taught today in several countries. For an overview of Montessori work at this age, see: Montessori 0-3

Since her death an interest in Dr. Montessori's methods have continued to spread throughout the world. Her message to those who emulated her was always to turn one's attention to the child, to "follow the child". It is because of this basic tenet, and the observation guidelines left by her, that Dr. Montessori's ideas will never become obsolete.

Many people, hearing of the high academic level reached by students in this system of education, miss the point and think that Montessori math manipulative (as an example) is all there is to the Montessori method. It is easy to acquire materials and to take short courses to learn to use them, but the real value of Montessori takes long and thorough training for the adult.

The potential of the child is not just mental, but is revealed only when the complete "Montessori method" is understood and followed. The child's choice, practical work, care of others and the environment, and above all the high levels of concentration reached when work is respected and not interrupted, reveal a human being that is superior not only academically, but emotionally and spiritually, a child who cares deeply about other people and the world, and who works to discover a unique and individual way to contribute. This is the essence of real "Montessori" work today.

Due to a legal judgment years ago, the use of the word "Montessori" is not protected and can be used by anyone for any purpose, to describe schools, teacher training centers, and toys and materials. Thus it falls on each person to research "real" Montessori for his or her child.

Photographs of Lewis Hine -- Documentation of Child Labor

This lesson relates to the First Amendment rights, including freedom of the press and right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history, government, language arts, and business law colleagues.



  1. Write the Lewis Hine quote that introduces the Background Information on the board and ask students to discuss it in relation to labor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then ask if they can draw a correlation to labor today. Next, provide students with background information on Lewis Hine and the child labor movement at the turn of the century. Be certain to discuss Hine's use of photography and its value to the reform movement. Finally, ask how many students have a family album of photographs. Ask: Why do we take and keep photographs? What information can you gather from photographs? How can historians use photographs? What information can historians gather from photographs? Discuss the issues of the photographer's point of view in taking pictures.

Photograph Analysis

  1. Print out a copy of Document 1 and reproduce it on a transparency. Use this photograph to demonstrate to the students techniques in photo analysis. Give students a few minutes to look at the photograph. Turn off the projector, and ask them to write down everything they saw in the photograph. After a few minutes, ask students to share their findings. They will probably have some conflicting views some students will see things that others have not seen or, in some cases, claim to have seen things not present in the photograph. Cut an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper into four parts. Place these four parts over the picture so that you can reveal one section of the photograph at a time, keeping the rest of the picture covered. Ask students to look closely at the area that is revealed and describe what they see in the photograph. This will draw their attention to the details of the photograph. After students have had an opportunity to view each section, uncover the whole photograph and ask them how what they now see in the photograph has changed.

Creative Writing

  1. As a creative writing assignment, ask each group from Activity 3 to create a story around its photograph that addresses the issues of child labor. Possible issues include safety on the job, inability to get an education, health hazards in the work environment, general health of young children, the movement to abolish child labor, and general living conditions of the era.

Class Discussion

  1. At the conclusion of these activities, lead a class discussion about the issues of labor and the role of the government. Ask: Should the government regulate labor in private industry? Why or why not? How far should regulation go? How can companies be held responsible for working conditions? What labor regulations are in effect today? How and why were these regulations established?

Interactive Computer Activity

  1. As an interactive computer activity utilizing the Internet and multimedia, divide students into teams of 2 to 4 students. Direct each team to use the National Archives Catalog database to search the photographs of Lewis Hine. They only need to use the keyword "Lewis Hine." Challenge the students on each team to identify 10 photographs that they feel best tell the story of child labor during the early 1900s. Teams should download their chosen photographs and create multimedia presentations for the class explaining and defending their choices. Explain that the evaluation will be based on their use of the Internet, incorporation of multimedia, and understanding of child labor issues at the turn of the century.

The phographs included in this project are from Record Group 102, Records of the Department of Commerce and Labor, Children's Bureau. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog National Archives Identifiers:

Each is accompanied by a significant caption written by Lewis Hine.

The National Archives Catalog replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.

The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the National Archives Catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.

Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the National Archives Catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the National Archives Catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the National Archives Catalog will grow continually.

This article was written by Linda Darus Clark, a teacher at Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio.

This page was last reviewed on June 26, 2017.
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